The White Boyfriend by Roxanne Nagarwalla

Artwork by Francois-Henri Galland

Your white boyfriend likes to eat, and he eats a lot. 

Your white boyfriend says he wants to go to your ‘father’s restaurant’, meaning he is craving Indian food. He chuckles at his own joke. Your father is in New York and works in finance. 

Your white boyfriend and you eat the food from your parents’ homeland; the spice burning the back of your throat like a promise. 

Your white boyfriend orders malai uttapam, baingan bharta, and paneer bhurji. 

He stumbles around the vowels and consonants, a jumble of sound in his tiring mouth. 

The air smells like cardamom and saffron, other lands where children run the streets naked and beg at car windows. 

He spends $48 on dinner and says it is cheap. 

You think about that word, cheap, how relative and grossly subjective it is. 

Years ago, your family could not afford $2 medication. In turn, your uncle went blind from smallpox at age six. 

You think back to the scars tracing your uncle’s face like littles commas, an omen of his survival. 

Your uncle says how he still remembers the color blue, how he says the sky is in everything. 


Your white boyfriend traces your jaw with his index finger. He holds your face in his hands and studies its shape. 

He comments on how dark you are getting. Your caramel skin is slowly becoming black as night. The sun does not burn you red like it does to him, it turns you from daylight to dusk. 

Your white boyfriend tells you that you looked more beautiful before the sun put its scorching hands around your throat. 

Your white boyfriend jokes that he has never dated a black girl before you. 

Sometimes you feel like you could be his flavor of the week, but it has been nine months now, and all the other girls in his orbit are white like fallen snow. 

When you were younger you wished you were white like those girls. You wished your skin did not betray you, did not expose your foreignness to a racist small town in America’s suburbia.

Your mother wanted life for you to be easier. When you were ten she used to bleach your skin as a favor, and it burned sweetly. She would dye your hair a lighter brown, no more inky blackness. 

Darkness was a cultural hex, a curse on beauty, the color of sin. 


When you travel with your white boyfriend he frequents five-star hotels. You feel awkward and out of place in yoga shorts and an oversized backpacking bag that makes you look like a turtle about to capsize. 

After hotel check in and many confused stares from strangers, you sit in bed together beneath plush comforters and blanched linens. 

The room smells like frangipani and modern art lines the walls, a 31st floor view of Bangkok from the floor to ceiling windows. The air is sterile and frigid. 

You turn off the air conditioning and your boyfriend tells you that you are crazy. He says this is one of the many reasons he does not sleep over at your place, the heat you dwell in is too intense for him.  

On the island called home, you live in a wooden bungalow on the beach, the only air conditioning  the breeze from the dance of the ocean’s waves. 

In the five-star hotel, he turns the AC to twenty degrees Celsius. You shiver. 

You think about Mumbai, and the heat that used to choke you in your dreams, awakening in a pool of your own sweat and hot tears from the night terrors. 

Six bodies in a one bedroom apartment. The low sigh of the single fan. The cockroach infestation. The morning cry from the crows. 


Your Burmese friend’s country is in shambles. The military coup has seized power and the people do not want democracy to become merely a word from the past. 

Villages burn, children are shot, Aung San Suu Kyi has been taken. You begin fundraising for the Burmese community, and the money trickles in slowly. 

Your white boyfriend tells you it is not your problem to solve, but he donates $50 anyway. 

That night, you organize a discussion panel with humanitarian experts to create awareness around the civil disobedience movement in Myanmar. 

The air is tense, and you scan the crowd  looking for your white boyfriend’s face. He is nowhere to be found. 

You see him the next morning, and he says he lost $50,000 in the stock market last night. 

Work always comes first.

He shrugs, and casually asks you how the event went. You say it was good. 

He does not ask for details because he does not care about what does not directly involve him or his money. 

You realize that white men would rather lose their wealth to other white men than give it to brown families being killed by their government. 

You donate $500 to the civil disobedience movement and eat bananas the rest of the week.  


Your white boyfriend looks like a Greek God, like the men they carve into marble, a work of art. 

You worship his body and it’s pillars, the two hands he places upon your writhing hips, his pink lips like the flesh of a rose upon your neck. 

Your white boyfriend has golden hair the color of sunlight, the exact shade of midsummer. His eyes are galactic spheres, like ice beginning to melt. 

He is everything you have been taught is beautiful and worthy of love. So you love him. 

When you stand next to him, you feel proud. He is the archetype of alpha male; rich, white, and strong. He went to the best business school in the country, worked in a hedge fund, traveled the world and made it his playground. 

He is ‘self-made’ forgetting that the world permitted men like him to rise like steam. Easily. Naturally. 


At house parties you both sip champagne by the pool and talk about nondualism. 

Your white boyfriend has to crouch down to speak to you, he towers over you by two feet. Your brown body is small and unimposing. He likes you for this. 

He talks for fifteen minutes straight, and you nod vigorously. You are well versed in listening and he is right about most things. 

A friend sees you both, and calls out, “Hey, it is Pocahontas and her lover John Smith!” 

Your white boyfriend laughs, but you stiffen. 


Are you sleeping with the conqueror? 

Are you sharing intimacy with the colonialist? Is this what they mean to love your enemy? 

You question the various forms of Stockholm Syndrome, and whether you have fallen victim to its grasp, unknowingly but willingly. 


Some white boyfriends are allies, the ones you bring with you to protests, who clean your swelling face after being tear-gassed by cops. 

There are white boyfriends who hold you when you cry about your home country and her brutalities against your kin. 

There are white boyfriends who put their lips onto your darkened skin and revel in the foreign taste, rose water, and sugary dates.

Other white boyfriends are like John Smith. The white men who claim to love you, but slowly destroy what they have claimed to love.

Roxane is a citizen of the world who spends her time living in different countries and is currently residing on an island in Thailand. Roxanne is the founder of Nude Studio, an online literary & visual journal working to expose global up-and-coming artists. She also works as a developmental editor and ghostwriter, bringing other’s stories to fruition. Her writing can be found on Uplift Connect, Nymphs, and Full Potential. Roxanne believes art is the path to self-actualization and she is on the journey there.

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